What is co-creation?
Co-creation is essentially partnering with customers to look at their business problems and evaluating them to see if there’s value in creating a solution. It’s an approach that invites direct customer involvement to co-design products that can deliver the best value for customers themselves.
That’s a simple way of explaining a complex concept.
To understand this better, it helps to look at how product development tends to work, and what fails.
So, let’s start with:
What’s wrong with product development?
Product development is hard work. And it has two potential outcomes – your efforts will ultimately succeed, or they won’t.
The problem is that most of the time they don’t. In fact, more than 80% of startups, products, services, and features – fail.
It’s not just new or small businesses that fail at this. Even massive companies like Google have their share of failed products. Google+, anyone?
Failure is expensive. Businesses spend over $29bn per year on features that almost never get used.
This is because product design as it currently exists consists of two phases: discovery and delivery.
If delivery is the simple and straightforward path, then discovery is a squiggly scribble.
This is because we spend too much time designing, building, and delivering, while spending too little time learning about customers values. At this stage, there are too few indicators we may be on the wrong track.
And this is where product waste happens.
Why do products fail?
Products fail because not enough customers find them valuable.
But what even makes your products valuable? That’s easy – your customers.
Because if customers value your product? Then it’s valuable.
But how can we reliably learn what customers value?
Product development used to rely on surveys, focus groups, even anthropological research… All we’ve reliably discovered is that we need a different approach.
You can’t simply guess when it comes to discovering customer values.
We need to ask questions and listen better to focus exclusively on discovering what the customer’s top values are. And this is challenging, since people can value the same product differently.
Take cars for example.
Essentially, a car is a device meant to transport you quickly and conveniently from point A to B. But there are product variations that focus on different customer values. Some customers value luxury. Others want blistering speed. And others demand fuel economy or zero carbon emissions.
Some cars try to satisfy a combination of top values – like speed and luxury, or speed and lower carbon emissions. There are cars that don’t try to excel in any performance category but are designed to be sensible and economical – satisfying the customer need for affordability.
The cars that fetch a premium (or are the top selling car in their class in the case of affordability), however, tend to be the ones that excel at satisfying top customer values.
It’s difficult to stand out in the market by trying to satisfy all your customers values. But you can’t excel at everything. You need to be sub-par at some things.
If you choose to be sub-par at less important things, and focus efforts on satisfying your customer’s top values? You save time and money, as well as reduce waste – and you can excel at satisfying your customer’s top values.
This is what the winning car companies do. They deliver tightly focused, shared values to a larger market.
You could argue that customer values are, as innovator and founder of MarketFit Alan Albert says, a way to define a market segment.
By partnering with customers to create solutions, you get to discover exactly what your customer’s top values are – and deliver them quickly.
Most products will fail if they don’t focus on the things that customers value. Instead, they may tend to focus on what customers say that they want.
It’s very important to know that what customers say they want (or need) and what they value – aren’t the same thing.
For example, if Henry Ford had asked customers what they wanted, they probably would’ve told him they wanted a faster horse.
But what it turns out they valued was getting to their destination quickly and comfortably.
Or if Bill Gates had asked customers what they wanted, they could’ve said – better computers. But what they valued was ease of operation.
When you aren’t building with customer value, you risk pouring countless hours of R&D and engineering into developing a solution that doesn’t really solve anything. And not to mention the cost.
But this risk is alleviated by creating alongside customers. This brings customers in at the very start. And by asking better questions, as well as by listening and understanding what customers are saying – you can have a better understanding of the underlying motivations and desires that compel them to take action. This will give you full insight into what it is that they value. And this is where you begin solving problems.
Focusing on satisfying your customer’s top values helps you can solve problems in a way that your customers will find valuable.
And this is what co-creation really is all about – collaborating on building a solution by combining the customer’s complete understanding of the underlying problem with your understanding of the underlying value that a solution should have – to solve the customer’s problem.
Co-creation helps you succeed sooner and avoid product waste
Co-creation reduces product waste by validating solutions in the early stages of product creation. Not only that, but it also helps invalidate ideas, which are sometimes just best guesses.
When you fully understand what your customers values are, you can quickly build working prototypes that they can validate.
Uber was already using WhatsApp in India and had a chatbot programmed for the local language. But the thinking was – how can we make it even more convenient for users to hire a ride in their local language? And we came up with using a WhatsApp chatbot to get an Uber.
In the Middle East, Uber had a regional competitor raise questions about the app’s security features. This caused a bit of a stir for Uber’s reputation for protecting driver safety. With a regional security conference around the corner, Uber needed a solution, fast.
This is when we came up with Number Masking, which is a solution that anonymizes phone numbers to keep driver and user data safe. And it ended up protecting Uber’s reputation for safety, keeping users safe – and became a benchmark solution for the industry.
Infobip is synonymous with innovation, making them a reliable communications platform for creating pioneering and new customer experiences. They go the extra mile, understand what the customer needs and deliver solutions through the right technology and channels – making them the partner to co-create with.Hari Chinni, Technology Sourcing Manager at Uber
One of the best things about developing these solutions for Uber is that they’re a leader in their industry, and this makes the solutions globally reusable.
Product developers should be mindful that the solution they’re pursuing is widely applicable – else they can end up working on something that only solves a very focused problem for a single customer.
What makes Infobip the ideal co-creation partner?
It starts with our CPaaS, which we look at like a simple, modular, reusable, and smart toolbox. Next, but just as important, is our local presence, globally. This gives us the unique opportunity to nurture key relationships while being fully immersed in the local culture.
These are the key ingredients of our product strategy and what we want to focus on as we build our stack.
This gives us a lot of tools we can use to create, and the people to create them with. From the outset, we’ve always been the kind of company that’s ready to sit down with customers to solve problems. And we’ll do this at all levels – from the CEO and CPO to front-line workers and everyone in between.
These are the things that set us apart from more developer-lead companies – it’s that we understand the implementation details at any level for any particular use case, and globally. That’s hard to replicate.
Co-creation as a competitive advantage
If you’re working with forward-thinking companies, you will be solving the problems of tomorrow. Which means you’re more likely to have a greater impact.
This positions the solutions you’re building as a trend that others will follow. An example of this is using WhatsApp to hire an Uber; this is a trend that the world is coming around to, because it’s convenient, conversational commerce.
Tech is becoming a commodity. It’s easy to create code and replicate tomorrow whatever groundbreaking solutions are today. Tech is no longer the long-lasting differentiator in tech. It’s the people. It’s customer experience and relationships that build stickiness. And this is why we choose to build together with our customers.
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Learn more about how we partner with customers to build solutions – and how we can help you, too